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How to Get Someone into Counseling

by Arlin Cuncic

Helping someone get into counseling isn't easy, but it is worthwhile if you have been that person's sole source of emotional support for too long. Whether your friend or family member is in crisis, in a bad relationship or abusing drugs or alcohol, finding a way to broach the subject carefully, obtaining a good referral and taking care of practical matters will make the transition easier. Just remember -- nobody wants to feel like there is something wrong with them, so always be compassionate and never judgmental.

Approach the Topic Gently

People may fear counseling for a number of reasons, says clinical psychologist Julia Becker, in the article, "How Do You Convince Someone Else They Need Counseling?" on the Candid Counselor website. They may feel that therapy is just for "crazy" people or that it would be shameful to admit needing help. Some individuals aren't self-aware enough to realize that they have a serious problem for which they need professional assistance. If you approach the issue too directly, the other person may become defensive or deny a problem exists. Never offer advice, but rather attempt to develop an alliance with the person so that you can be in a position to get them help. For example, say something like, "I know someone who went through a hard time after her divorce. Counseling really helped her."

Listen for a Complaint

If you've been shouldering the burden of someone's emotional distress for a while, listen for a complaint that you can't help with, suggests clinical psychologist Sophie Henshaw, in the article, "How to Get a Friend to See a Therapist" on the Psych Central website. If your best friend talks about domestic violence in the home, comment that it is something beyond what you feel you can help with, but that you know someone who might be in a position to offer an outside perspective. If your depressed cousin says that she's stopped paying the bills, tell her that you know of a counselor who has helped others get their life back on track. At this point, your goal is to introduce the idea that the person is in need of help that you can't provide. Also realize that if someone has a serious issue (e.g., alcoholism) and resists counseling, you may need to seek professional guidance on how to proceed.

Find the Right Counselor

It isn't enough to suggest someone go for counseling -- you have to be ready with information and a referral to provide should they be willing to go. Depending on the situation, you may want to locate a psychologist, social worker, marriage and family therapist. Counseling can also take place individually, as a family, couple or in a group. Look for a professional with experience treating the specific issue that is causing problems and go with the person that makes you feel the most comfortable, as described in the Helpguide article, "Finding a Therapist Who Can Help You Heal." Helping someone get into counseling means taking those first steps to do the legwork they are unlikely to do themselves.

Financial Matters

Not everyone has the financial means to get into counseling. If financial obstacles are holding someone back, look into low cost options such as therapists who offer sliding scale payment plans where the patient pays only what they can afford. Other good options include community agencies or mental health clinics that may offer discounted rates. Finally, interns in training are another good source of low-cost therapy and they are often eager and willing to take on new clients with fresh perspectives on how to help. Lack of insurance should not be a stumbling block toward obtaining therapy -- so be sure to investigate all avenues for the person you are trying to help.

About the Author

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.

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